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ENT Update

New Surgical Oncologist to Manage High-Risk, Aggressive Skin Cancers

Dr. Karen Y. Choi joined the faculty of Penn State College of Medicine in October 2018 as an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. A surgical oncologist, Choi brings expertise in treating advanced melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, including aggressive squamous and basal cell carcinomas.

Fresh off a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Choi joins a group of clinicians at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center who are experts in adult and pediatric ear, nose and throat disorders, facial plastic surgery, head and neck cancer surgery, skull base surgery, ear surgery and more.

Choi brings something particularly valuable to the team from sun-drenched Houston—her experience in managing larger, high-risk, aggressive skin cancers. This clinical specialty is also essential in central Pennsylvania, where there is a high proportion of older central Pennsylvania farmers with a considerable amount of sun exposure that can cause “horrendous cancers,” Goldenberg said.

Choi’s expertise involves surgical dissection of the primary tumor and management of nodal basins, locations in the head and neck that are at high risk for metastasis. The location of a high-risk nodal basin depends on the primary tumor location, Choi explained. For instance, cancers on the temple or scalp may drain through the lymphatic system to nodes in the parotid gland—the main salivary gland—sometimes requiring patients to undergo parotidectomy. Choi will perform radioguided sentinel lymph node biopsies to look for malignancies in nodal basins.

A close-up of a brown melanoma is shown on a man’s forehead. There are two stitches holding the biopsy site together.

A malignant melanoma is shown on a man’s forehead after a biopsy.

Her high-risk patients also have the benefit of her colleagues’ expertise. “We meet at a multidisciplinary planning conference, or Tumor Board, as it’s also known, once a week to go over these higher-risk patients where management might not be so straightforward,” Choi said. “The goal is to get everybody’s input from their particular expertise and develop the best treatment plan for the patient.”

“We discuss the patients’ condition and care with our surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and clinical trial researchers to make sure the patients are getting the most comprehensive and complete care and are afforded the opportunity to be on a clinical trial should it be appropriate,” said  Dr. David Goldenberg, chief of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery.

In addition to managing high-risk skin cancers, Choi also treats aerodigestive tract malignancies, which effect the respiratory and upper digestive tract, using techniques like transoral robotic surgery and free-flap reconstruction.

The Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery is growing and in July will become its own department at Hershey Medical Center.

A head-and-shoulders photo of David Goldenberg, MD

David Goldenberg, MD

Chair, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
Professor, Departments of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Surgery and Medicine
Steven and Sharon Baron Professor of Surgery
Phone: 717-531-6822
Fellowship: Head and Neck, Surgical Oncology, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
Residency: Head and Neck, Surgical Oncology, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel
Medical School: Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel
Internship: Rotating, Soroka Medical Center, Beersheba, Israel
Connect with David Goldenberg, MD, on Doximity

A head-and-shoulders photo of Karen Y. Choi, MD

Karen Y. Choi, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery
Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
Phone: 717-531-6822
Fellowship: Surgical oncology, head and neck, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
Residency: Otolaryngology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY
Medical School: SUNY at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo, N.Y.
Connect with Karen Y. Choi, MD, on Doximity

The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Penn State Health offers an advanced team of surgeons and providers to treat disorders of the ear, nose and throat.

The department is made up of fellowship-trained experts in pediatric ear, nose and throat disorders, facial plastic surgery, head and neck cancer surgery, skull base surgery and ear surgery, offering the most innovative and advanced treatments for patients’ ear, nose and throat concerns.

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